Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

From this question about gunpowder in the Star Wars universe it is quoted that the shot from a slug thrower is not completely deflectable by a lightsaber. This seems to be listed as an advantage (over blasters) against lightsabers and Jedi.

For example, during the days of the Galactic Republic, mercenaries fearing an intervention by Jedi Knights used rapid-fire slugthrowers that were impossible to completely deflect, unlike blaster bolts.

This doesn't make much sense though. A slug, while maybe not as deflectable should be just as ineffective against a lightsaber as a blaster shot is, due to the nature of a lightsaber blade. That is, a blade made of plasma should simply vaporize the slug, should the slug manage to penetrate the containment field.

The weapon consisted of a blade of pure plasma emitted from the hilt and suspended in a force containment field. The field contained the immense heat of the plasma, protecting the wielder, and allowed the blade to keep its shape.

While a slug would seem to be more accurate than a blaster bolt (at least when used by a skilled marksman), I can't imagine that the slug would be faster than a bolt. Or if it is faster I wouldn't imagine it would be so fast that a Jedi would be unable to react with enough speed to block it, either with their saber or with the force. So what is the implied advantage of a slug thrower, versus a blaster, when used against a Jedi?

share|improve this question

14 Answers 14

up vote 43 down vote accepted

The real reason Slugs > Blasters against Jedi is really more straightforward than you'd think.

  1. Blaster bolts can be reflected, slugs will be burned up by the blade. This removes a significant counterattack from the Jedi.
  2. Slug-throwing weapons have a higher rate of fire. Jedi might seem impervious in the movies, but anyone can make a mistake. More projectiles = greater odds. Additionally, as others have pointed out, the higher rate of fire means more difficulty deflecting them.
  3. Slugs probably travel much faster than blaster bolts. While there is some controversy about the exact speeds of blaster bolts, based on a visual summary of the films it is clear that they travel much slower than even the slowest bullets on earth do. Speed counts against Jedi.
  4. Slugs are more difficult to see. While perhaps not always a total win against Jedi, less visibility is always an advantage.

Some additional notes. Why not always use slug weapons? Well, they have some drawbacks. For example, it is easier to shield against them. There exists various exotic metals in the SW universe like Durasteel. Durasteel is really only vulnerable to extremes of temperature like the blades of lightsabers and the bolts of blasters. The kinetic forces of slug weapons are simply not enough to do damage to it, even if the slugs are also made of Durasteel, they will simply bounce off. Slugs need to get very large before they can damage someone wearing Durasteel armor, and even then that damage would probably be concussive, not penetrative.

Jedi don't wear Durasteel, because it is heavy and would slow them down, and would offer little protection against their normal adversary, other lightsaber wielding foes.

Not only are they easy to shield against, they require non-compressible and heavy ammunition. Blasters work on energy and gas. In the SW universe both gas compression and energy storage are much more advanced than here on earth. This means that slug weapons are expensive to use on large scales, and require parts that need to be manufactured elsewhere rather than refilled on the planet they are being used on.

Consider the supply chain requirements for interplanetary war if you need to ship bullets between star systems? Forget about large shells.

Lastly, while less accurate, blasters also are easier to use and train in the use of. Slugthrowers are ballistic and therefore have drop-off at long ranges, are affected more by wind, and generally require more skill to use.

share|improve this answer
In one of the Star Wars games (Jedi Outcast), you're explicitly told to use a flak gun against AI Jedi if you decide to wimp out and not duel them - it doesn't matter how fast they are, they can't stop a wall of bullets :) – Tacroy Mar 26 '12 at 23:30
@Tacroy I would expect a Force push could just sweep that wall to one side (granted, in a VG everyone plays by strict rules). – Xantec Mar 30 '12 at 13:39
I don't know if I believe logistics are a problem for the Star Wars universe. Their capital ships are kilometers long. That can carry a lot of bullets. – Zan Lynx Mar 30 '12 at 16:14
@Jersey Shotguns don't tend to work in reality like they do in games and movies. They do not fan out in close-cones, they only spread a few inches at 40 yards unless modified, and a modified shotgun is worthless at any range farther than a few yards. There just aren't enough projectiles in a shell to make game-style cones realistic, and the more you stuff into the shell, the weaker each one is. – DampeS8N Sep 13 '13 at 19:09
I'd add (but felt like it wasn't quite right to edit your answer) that while a blaster bolt is apparently either deflected or not, a projectile can be partially deflected or partially vaporized. A projectile that is partially deflected may produce shrapnel that could cause problems for a Jedi. Molten slag is usually unpleasant, even in small quantities. – Matt Jan 22 '14 at 15:32

Slugthrowers are any form of firearm. This includes everything from flintlocks to .50 cal machine guns.

Blasters typically fire a small number of bolts at relatively low speed, counting on the damage from each individual bolt to kill the target. Slugthrowers, on the other hand, do much less damage per shot. Those which would be used in combat against a Jedi would invariably be along the lines of a submachine gun or similar 'bullet hose'. In typical 3-round burst mode, that's 3 rounds per trigger pull.

Jedi can block a blaster bolt, or even several in quick succession. Against 2-3 enemies, each spitting out multiple rounds in short duration? Even Jedi speed can't keep up a defense.

It's a difference between quantity and quality. In general, blasters are better - they do far more damage. In specific circumstances, such as against a small number of Jedi, the quantity slugthrowers can put out is more effective.

share|improve this answer
A well timed Force push coupled with Force speed would seem to negate those assets outside of anything other than a perfect ambush. – Xantec Mar 25 '12 at 15:24
@Xantec - speed would help them run away, but I doubt a force push could be powerful enough to cancel the kinetic energy of a rifle round - Even an extermely powerful push (like from Windu in the Clone Wars tv series) usually only serves to knock an opponent down and slightly back (when not used against a single foe). Against 30 bullets? No chance. – Jeff Mar 26 '12 at 2:30
Canceling the energy of a rifle round shouldn't be too difficult with the force. According to calculations, stopping a large-caliber round takes about 1,000 N of force. Top boxers' punches can exert forces in excess of 2,000 N. So to stop and redirect a single bullet? Easy with the force. A hail of bullets? Who knows, but "size matters not" – The Fallen Jun 21 '12 at 19:52
@SSumner: Reaction times also have to be taken into account. It takes focus and concentration to affect something with the Force, and targeting something the size of a bullet mid-flight is hard to do, even if your reflexes have no lag. – Jeff Jun 21 '12 at 19:56
@Jeff - wouldn't the same logic hold for blocking blasters? Targeting a small object about the same size? The difference would be that the bullet has mass that would impart force, which might make them more difficult to block in large numbers – The Fallen Jun 21 '12 at 21:29

A slug, vaporized or not, possesses mass x travelling at speed y, which is where its power to harm comes from. To protect against it, what matters is that its trajectory is changed.

Discounting any magnetic effects that would quickly be countered with non-magnetic slugs, the wielder would need to exert a force equal to good old F=MA to redirect it back 180 degrees (twice that force, actually), and less than that to merely redirect it around the wielder harmlessly.

So the question seems to be: does a lightsaber exert force the way a real saber would? I think the answer from the behavior of cuts in the series is generally ”no” - they act as purely cutting blades, except against each other.

So why aren't the storm troopers using AK-47s? Because that wouldn't look nearly as cool.

Actually, having said that, that would look pretty cool.

share|improve this answer
An equal force would stop the bullet dead, you'd need twice that to redirect it 180 degrees, wouldn't you? – Izkata Mar 25 '12 at 15:52
@Izkata you would indeed. – AncientSwordRage Mar 25 '12 at 15:55
@chris - "why aren't the storm troopers using AK-47s" - see my answer to the original question. They weren't meant to fight Jedi (either before the Order 66 day, or after) with some very rare exceptions, and against non-Jedi the blasters are better. – DVK-in-exile Mar 25 '12 at 16:20
@Izkata - ach! I made the Mythbusters mistake. – Chris B. Behrens Mar 25 '12 at 22:14

Besides the points listed already by other answers, there is one main difference. Using a blaster against a Jedi is giving him another weapon, that is if he can reflect your blaster bolts. With a slug thrower any deflections are vapourised, and thus cannot harm you.

share|improve this answer

Do the lightsabers actually vaporize the slugs, or would they instead melt the slugs? If they do indeed melt the slugs instead of vaporizing them, I don't think the lightsaber would nullify the momentum of the slugs' mass; the Jedi would have a wad of molten slugs flying at them.

share|improve this answer
Vaporizing something doesn't nullify its momentum either... – Michael Borgwardt Oct 25 '12 at 12:31

I would speculate that slugs are effective only because Jedi are typically not expecting them.

The problem with using physical objects against Jedi is that properly trained Jedi can exert very powerful telekinesis--certainly strong enough to push slugs woefully far off target. Since blaster bolts are mostly energy, they are apparently not subject to the Jedi's telekinesis abilities. Thus, even against Jedi, blasters are superior weapons.

However, since blasters are widespread and slug-throwers are not, most Jedi apparently haven't trained to use telekinetic powers to protect themselves. Thus, they are effective simply by virtue of being surprising. If they became widespread, they would lose both their surprise value and their effectiveness.

A few other details: slugs should be less accurate than blasters, given that firing a slug causes recoil, and gravity (and wind) affects the slug. Also, although one does need to conserve kinetic energy when "blocking" slugs, the lightsaber could vaporize the slug into two vapor streams that went on either side of the lightsaber blade, both of which avoided the Jedi. This need not require the Jedi to exert much force. The problem would be the rate of arrival of the slugs; one needs time to move the blade to block multiple slugs. (In general, one could position the blade to catch the first two slugs, but then would have to move it to catch the third.)

share|improve this answer
In general, one could position the blade to catch the first two slugs, but then would have to move it to catch the third. The same applies to blocking bolts, which they don't seem to have too much trouble with (as long as they aren't ambushed). – Xantec Mar 30 '12 at 13:42
@Xantec - The rate of fire of bolts is much lower, leaving more time to reorient the blade. – Rex Kerr Mar 30 '12 at 15:15

Think about it as a difference in projectile purpose.

A bolt from a blaster is meant to burn through an object (as stated before increase the heat of whatever is attempting to stop it)

A bullet is meant to penetrate an object and flatten causing internal damage and to drain the fluid of the bodys hydraulic system.

A lightsaber blade and a blaster bolt are made of matter in similar states, so if one interacts with another they can repel (bouncing a ball off a hard surface; matter in like states interacting with one another)

A lightsaber blade and a "slug" are made of matter in different states. If one were to fire something in a small caliber (9mm .45 .50 BMG) it would be similar to throwing Jupiter into the Sun (addition of substantial mass, vaporization and inclusion into plasma stream).

Now if we were able to redefine the term "slug" as a large bore lead projectile fired at high velocity (large bore meaning larger in diameter than the blade of a lightsaber). Then the answer to this question becomes obvious.

Other than constant use of the force to move a heavy object travelling at high velocity (which unless you were very powerful in the force would be very straining). It would be impossible for a Jedi to defend themselves, without using some kind of shield array.

On a side note, just to throw a science monkey wrench into the works. Plasma (contained or not) is incapable of moving slower than a solid projectile. We currently have "un-contained" plasma weapons in use in the militaries of the world and they travel at thousands of feet per second.

share|improve this answer

I've looked at everyone one of your comments and there's one thing that is never mentioned, recoil. I've looked at videos of blasters being fired and the recoil on the weapons doesn't seem that bad. However with "slug throwers" there is usually a lot of recoil that must be dealt with, which is probably one of the reasons behind burst firing. However, in the movies and cartoons you repeatedly see users (mostly clonetroopers) firing rapidly from the hip or shoulder height with fairly good accuracy. Why I'm bringing up recoil is because it causes the bullets to spread around an area more. If the plasma rounds from blasters are not affected by normal ballistics like a bullets would, and would always shoot straight along with little to no recoil from the gun then the spread would be significantly less than that of a slugthrower. This accuracy combined with the other factors already noted could be why jedi are able to deflect blaster bolts effectively. Slugthrowers with high rates of fire and more recoil would be much more random in trajectory and would have a much wider spread, so a jedi would have a harder time predicting where the path of the bullets.

share|improve this answer

This argument is invalid for a reason. If you're talking about firearms then you're talking about the Star Wars EU. In the books Obi Wan easily deflects rounds from a Gatling Gauntlet, not with his light saber, but with a simple force shield. Bullets have mass, therefore it is easy to block them by surrounding yourself with the force. Even against non force users bullets aren't very effective, because force field technology is cheap and common. That's why firearms were phased out and replaced with blasters, which don't fire lasers, but a plasma bolt. Although bullets can kill a Jedi, it is always because the Jedi is taken by surprise.

share|improve this answer
Which book(s) are you referring to? – Null May 22 '15 at 21:02

This is just a crazy dream of mine...

Imagine being a Jedi accustomed to foes armed with blasters, which fire a really hot bubble of plasma at a slower velocity than a slug made of some sort of ferrous projectile.

The Force allows you to react to the incoming threat, but while the slower firing and moving blaster bolt is easy enough to react to, it's much harder to react to a burst of up to a dozen high-velocity projectiles from a single weapon at close range. While you can visualize and focus on the path of a few bolts of searing hot gas as they approach you, the salvo of solid projectiles is slightly less obvious and harder to see coming. From using your lightsaber to deflect a few incoming objects that are more apparent to your force-sensitive nature, you now not only have to focus on a dozen or so little metal pieces of up-yours which are travelling at higher speed, but you also have to focus on how they're going to be affected by gravity and how they will be intercepting you and most of all, how many dozens to hundreds of these objects which may be flung at you within a short period of time. It's not as though it's not possible, but it certainly is alot more tiring...

share|improve this answer
The Jedi doesn't react to the bolt itself, but uses the Force to sense danger in the near future and how to avoid or block it. From a living being the Jedi can also sense the intent to do harm. – Zan Lynx Jul 9 '13 at 21:23

I guess I'll post something. Attempting to block a slug with a lightsaber would result in said slug being vaporized. Having a cloud of superheated vapor in your face is not exactly good for you (you'd end up with hot vapor in your lungs and organs, burning them up). Not only that, but when an object is vaporized, the vapor is usually explosively released, turning the bullet into a 20mm grenade going off a foot in front of your face (exaggeration, but you get the point). This gets even worse when the slugs are of higher caliber or are speciality rounds. A high explosive round would not only vaporize, but would also ignite the explosive, resulting in the vapor being pushed all around you in a cloud.

share|improve this answer

I am inclined to suggest that More Dakka applies here. The slug throwers sound like a so-so idea personally, but enough shooters and they can't all be blocked. Better would be blunderbusses at 30 feet. You can't block a blast area much wider than your blade moving faster than you can move the blade.

share|improve this answer

A speeding bullet is useless against even an ambushed, unarmed Jedi.

It is not possible to assassinate a Jedi without use of the Dark Side. They always see you coming, unless their clairvoyance is somehow neutralized by the Dark Side. General Order 66 would not have been successful had it not had the benefit of a Sith Lord shielding it. Every Jedi eventually knew what was coming before it occurred, but it was too late.

If you could somehow sneak up on a Jedi with a firearm, before the hammer fell, the barrel would be neutralized and it would explode in your hand. This is the main reason guns are useless against Jedi. The confusion sets in because while light sabers generally cannot stop speeding bullets (unless in the hands of a Jedi who really wants to), Jedi are only temporarily inconvenienced by any actual firearm, as just before it is deployed the surprise is lost, and if a bullet leaves the barrel, it will be the last time for that gun. Because immediately the gun and gunslinger will become Jedi mind toys. There is probably some limit to the number of barrels a Jedi could Force-crush in some time frame, so if you had a squadren of sharp shooters at point blank range, maybe by luck, some shrapnel might make contact. But far and away the most likey thing that would happen is that no one would survive that plan, except the Jedi.

But assume you were really lucky and a somehow managed a few or several... lets say 10 shots fired on target at a Jedi. Even then all the Jedi must do is avoid the vicinity of those 10 trajectories, which is easy to do when you know the trajectories before the bullets are fired.

I suppose if you somehow tricked a Jedi into some situation, the unarmed Jedi may do some heroic thing like use his own body as a shield. But it is far more likey the Jedi would push the bullet to a neutral trajectory or push something else in its path rather than allow themselves to be shot. Some of them are more dramatic than others.

As for light sabers and guns, sans Jedi, it is physically possible for what is left of a projectile to pass through the plasma of a light saber. The physics of it is easy to imagine, and I'm certain someone could probably even figure that out knowing the variables, energy, mass, time. However, every responsible gun owner knows that even a knife in the hands of an attacker (within a 20ft radius) is enough to make a gun useless. I think its hard to compare what a knife-weilding attacker can do to a side-arm carrier compared to a Jedi with a light saber. Look what Kenobi did to Skywalker... a gun would not have prevented his considerable injury.

share|improve this answer

Besides the obvious 'it wouldn't go with the theme of the movie' I think there's a pretty simple answer. Ballistic firearms are considered old relics in the game because they just don't work anymore. There is technology that trumps all forms of it.

As some have mentioned the futuristic metal they use completely stops cannon level kinetic force. The most modern version of the empire would need to have one encounter with an enemy group using these kinds of weapons, likely having the front empire soldiers turned to swiss cheese because it's been literally centuries since anyone the empire knows of has used that kind of weapon and they don't have armor on meant to handle that.

Then they'd retreat a bit and send in their equivalent of a robot riot control force. That being Durasteel sentry droids over and over until they're all wiped out. Also, frankly, the way they describe the force it sounds like when you master it you basically have an almost physical awareness of your 3 dimensional space. At least for things you can affect using the force.

Who's to say if a jedi was trained in handling these projectiles they could detect and expend a concentrated and tiny force push against it by reflex. Just enough to negate it's speed and have it fall to the ground. Yes like Neo from the Matrix, but a 360 degree sphere. Jedi could detect the heat, the light, and the projectile itself. They learn to block blaster shots by reflex because they know there's never going to be an instance where deflecting a blaster shot would be the wrong thing to do. So without even thinking about it, expending a relatively small amount of the force to stop the bullet would negate most weapons that a human could wield. All you'd need is jedi in a time where this weapon is somewhat common, enough to warrant learning this technique, and you have a literal bullet force-field for your jedi. In the modern time they'd just have the jedi sit this one out and have the rebels send in their own durasteel droids if it attacked the jedi.

I'm not saying these droids exist in universe, I'm saying they could in like 2 days of the Empire or the Rebels finding out they're needed because some idiots tried using these weapons against either side. Considering how fast the droids are built that we've seen in the movies, replacing basic security droids armor with durasteel seems like it'd be fast and effective.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.